Darien downs Ridgefield in FCIAC boys volleyball finals

Spotting a tough opponent early leads is usually not an avenue to success.

The Ridgefield High boys volleyball team was reminded of that on Friday night.

Falling behind in each game, the top-seeded Tigers fell to second-seed Darien, 3-0, in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference finals at Fairfield Ludlowe High School.

The Blue Wave swept the match by scores of 25-18, 25-22, and 25-17.

It was the fifth consecutive loss in the conference championship match for Ridgefield and the third straight to Darien. The teams will now be the favorites in the Class L state tournament, which the Tigers have won the last three seasons, beating Darien in the finals the past two years.

"We just didn't play our game tonight," said Ridgefield head coach Lidania Cibere, whose team split with Darien during the regular season. "In each set we got down early and had trouble overcoming the deficit. We had too many errors, on serves and with hitting."

Ridgefield's best start came in the first set, as it scored four of four points to break a 4-4 tie and go ahead 8-5. But Darien won 13 of the next 17 points, taking a 16-12 lead. The Tigers were within four points, 21-17, later in the set before the Blue Wave closed with a 4-1 run to win the set.

Darien (21-1) opened a 16-9 lead in the second game, but Ridgefield (19-2) rallied to get within two points at 16-14. Nick Laudati's kill kept the Tigers down two, 20-18, later in the game, and after Darien moved ahead 23-19, Ridgefield got a kill from Christian DeVivo to make it 24-22.

The Blue Wave won the next point, however, to win the game and open a 2-0 lead.

Ridgefield was down by one point, 8-7, in the third game before Darien embarked on an 11-2 run to go ahead 19-11. DeVivo's kill brought the Tigers within 21-15, but Darien then  took four of the next six points to win the game and sweep the match.

Henrik Liapunov had 25 assists, four blocks and five service points for Ridgefield. Laudati (13), DeVivo (eight) and Jack Lincoln (five) combined for 26 kills, and Andrew Knachel contributed six service points and three digs.

For Darien, Tim Herget finished with 15 kills, nine service points and 18 digs and was named the Most Valuable Player. Alex Preston added 12 kills, and Tyler Herget has 33 assists.

"We need to have a short memory," said Ridgefield senior Josh Verdejo. "We're going to brush this off, learn from our mistakes, and be ready for them in the next game."

Press Sports Reporter Jimmy Green contributed to this story.